Jason Giambi leave the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco

Bonds Trial Update: The Brothers Giambi

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Yesterday’s installment of the Barry Bonds trial didn’t provide the salacious highs of Monday’s Kimberly Bell testimony, but it made up for it with a varied menu of witnesses.  Most notably Jason and Jeremy Giambi, but let’s take this all in order, shall we?

First up was a man named Barry Sample, an expert in drug testing. Which involves … giving samples. Hmm. Maybe someone is putting us on here, because that name is too on-the-nose.  His testimony sounded legit, however. He explained why it’s so hard to use a Whizzinator and stuff like that.  For the record, he also testified that Bonds’ 2003 sample — which was part of baseball’s pilot drug testing program — came up negative for drugs at first, though a second test of the sample came back positive. Anyone feel better about the veracity of the leaked name from that famous list yet?

Next up was a man named Dale Kennedy, who is in the business of collecting urine samples from Major League Baseball players. I bet he’s great at parties. His testimony seemed pretty irrelevant. He wasn’t even cross-examined.

After Kennedy’s testimony came the hubub about whether Kimberly Bell changed her testicle testimony since 2003. I discussed this in detail yesterday. Upshot: this could be a bad thing for the prosecution.  If the jury is instructed to ignore her testimony about Barry’s berries, her credibility may be irreparably damaged and if that happens, the only person who has testified that Bonds knew he had taken steroids prior to his grand jury testimony may be discredited.  For now the judge is taking no action on the matter. If that doesn’t change, no harm, no foul for the prosecution.

The most interesting testimony of the day came from former Giants trainer and current Dodgers trainer Stan Conte. Conte is one of the most respected trainers in the game, but he was thrust into steroids-in-baseball fame when the Mitchell Report came out. There we learned how Brian Sabean was content to throw him under the bus when it came to Barry Bonds and Greg Anderson.

Specifically, in 2000, Conte went to Sabean to complain about known drug dealers like Greg Anderson hanging out in the locker room. Conte asked Sabean if it were OK to kick Greg Anderson out of the locker room. Sabean didn’t object. But then Conte, no idiot, asked Sabean if he’d have Conte’s back if Barry Bonds got angry about it and tried to have him fired. According to the Mitchell Report — and revisited in Conte’s testimony yesterday — Sabean told Conte that he was on his own if that happened. You don’t have to be genius to see that Sabean’s baloney in this regard set up Conte as a potential scapegoat in the event someone ever raised a ruckus about the Giants’ tolerance of Anderson, Bonds and steroids (“I told the trainer to do what was necessary. If he didn’t . . . “).  It certainly makes Conte a sympathetic figure and bolsters his integrity when it comes to steroids in baseball.

Beyond that, Conte’s testimony focused on his disapproval of steroids, Bonds’ unique training regimen and how, over time, he and Bonds had a falling out over Bonds’ training and rehab.  It seemed like the prosecution wanted to use this friction as a means of showing that Bonds was a rogue and to imply that Bonds had something to hide from his trainer. The defense, in contrast, seemed to be arguing that Conte’s personal tiff with Bonds makes him a biased witness. Indeed, the defense seems to be doing that with everyone.  Personally, it doesn’t sound like either side can claim the Conte testimony as a big win. It was factual and straightforward, but there was no mention of Conte being aware of Bonds’ steroids use, let alone Bonds admitting that he was aware of it, and thus I can’t see how the jury can use it to reach any conclusions about whether Bonds lied under oath.

Finally came a trio of ballplayers: Jason Giambi, Jeremy Giambi and Marvin Bernard. All three of them testified to receiving steroids from Greg Anderson (though all also testified that they had been taking steroids before meeting Anderson too).  All of them testified that they more or less knew that what they were receiving was steroids or at least steroids-like substances that were designed to be undetectable performance enhancing drugs such as The Cream and the Clear.  None of them testified about Barry Bonds at all.

The point of the player testimony: to show the jury a pattern of ballplayers knowingly receiving steroids from Greg Anderson and hoping that they conclude that Barry Bonds had to have known too.  This could be effective if the ballplayers themselves came across as having a clear idea of what they were taking.  Based on secondhand accounts of the testimony this was hit-and-miss yesterday, with the Giambis and Bernard voicing varying degrees of certainty about it all, what the drugs were intended to do, and whether they felt the drugs actually, you know, worked.

It strikes me that the player testimony could provide corroborating and/or supporting evidence if the jury is inclined to believe that Bonds lied, but it’s hard to see how it provides anything close to a smoking gun.  And it’s a smoking gun that the prosecution has been unable to come up with so far.

Must-Click Link: Big Brother is Watching Ballplayers

Big Brother
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Over at Vice Rian Watt has a great story about how technology is changing baseball. No, it’s not about sabermetrics or statistical analysis. At least not as you all know and understand those things. It’s about how the players themselves are now becoming the data. About how wearables — little devices which monitor everything about an athlete’s behavior — and analysis of that behavior is changing clubs’ understanding of what makes baseball players excel.

Which is fine if you approach it solely from a technological standpoint and do that usual “gee, what a world we live in” stuff that such articles typically inspire. Watt, however, talks about the larger implications of turning players into data: the blurring of their professional and personal lives:

Welcome to the next frontier in baseball’s analytic revolution. Many of this revolution’s tenets will be familiar to anyone who works for a living—the ever-growing digitization and quantification of things never-before measured and tracked, for instance, or the ever-expanding workplace, the blurring distinction between the professional and the personal, and the cult of self-improvement for self-improvement’s sake. These broader trends are colliding with baseball tradition on backfields and in training facilities around the major leagues, and those collisions have raised questions about privacy, security, and what employees owe their employers.

Players already accept drug testing and rules about personal behavior. But can a club, armed with knowledge about how it affects a player’s performance, make rules about how he sleeps? What kind of shoes he wears off the field? Everything he eats?

I’m the last person to fall for slippery slope fallacies. In most instances there are lines that can be drawn when it comes to regulating the behavior of others and making new rules. But in order to draw those lines you have to ask questions about what is and what is not acceptable. You also have to acknowledge that it’s really easy for technology to get ahead of our ability to comprehend its ethical implications.

Vin Scully recites the “People will come” speech from “Field of Dreams”

James
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You all probably know my thing about “Field of Dreams.” Specifically, that I hate it. Maybe my least favorite baseball movie ever. And I have sat through “The Slugger’s Wife” at least twice. That’s really saying something. At some point I’ll watch it again and liveblog the experience to explain my position on this — I know all of you think I’m nuts for not liking it — but just accept that I don’t like it for now, OK?

But just because a movie stinks doesn’t mean every aspect of it is bad. I loved Burt Lancaster in everything he did and he did an excellent job in “Field of Dreams.” Same with James Earl Jones for the most part. I thought he did a great job playing a character which, at times, didn’t have as much to work with as he could’ve had. No, there are good elements of “Field of Dreams.” If there weren’t — if it were just a total turkey — it wouldn’t inspire the feelings I have about it. If it were an unmitigated disaster, I’d occasionally re-watch it on a so-bad-it’s-good theory.

The “People will come” speech is good. Not necessarily for its content — there’s some hokeyness to it — but because James Earl Jones does a great job delivering it. He could read the dang phone book and make it compelling

Yesterday Major League Baseball launched a partnership thingie with the Field of Dreams site in Iowa. Part of that effort involved having Vin Scully recite the “People will come” speech over some baseball footage. Watch and listen:

Personally, I’d prefer Vin to tell some kooky story about an opposing player actually being a part time flautist or what have you. He’s had many monumental moments, but Scully is Scully for the way he makes the workaday and the mundane sound poetic, not because he takes the already poetic and elevates it further.

Still, this is good. Even to a hater like me. And I’m sure a lot of you will love it.

The Yankees release former prospect Slade Heathcott

TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 27:  Slade Heathcott #71 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait on February 27, 2016 at George M Steinbrenner Stadium  in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Yankees announced last night that they have given an unconditional release to outfielder Slade Heathcott. They needed room on the 40-man roster and he was seen as expendable. There is no indication that they’re going to try to re-sign him or anything. He’s just gone.

Heathcott was the 29th overall pick in the 2009 draft and at one time was considered the second best prospect in the Yankees’ system. Injuries and decreased production as he climbed the minor league ladder took the shine off this particular apple, however. He had a nice little cup of coffee with New York last season, but he’s hitting a mere .230/.271/.310 at Triple-A this year in his second go-around.

Heathcott can play center field and has good tools, but he’s going to have to use them working for another organization.

Pete Rose says no one ever told him not to gamble on baseball anymore

Former Cincinnati Reds player and manager Pete Rose poses while taping a segment for Miami Television News on the campus of Miami University, Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, in Oxford, Ohio. (AP Photo/Gary Landers)
Associated Press
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Pete Rose will soon be inducted into the Reds Hall of Fame and have his number retired and all of that jazz. To mark the occasion, Cincinnati Magazine interviewed the Hit King. And, for, like, the 4.256th straight time, Rose shows that he’s in complete denial about why he was banned in 1989 and why he was not reinstated last year when Rob Manfred agreed to review his case:

In this time of limbo after the ban, did you worry about your legacy? I normally don’t ever worry about anything that I’m not in control of. I wasn’t in control of anything in that situation. I went through a period when I got suspended where I didn’t even go to the ballpark. It’s not because I didn’t want to. There were so many restrictions on me, I just didn’t want to put people through that. It didn’t feel good to me.

Sure he wasn’t in control of anything. He was a tiny boat, cast out onto the waves, left to drift in a sea of uncertainty and powerlessness.

But it gets better. Rose was asked about how he changed his life after his ban:

But you still bet on baseball, albeit legally. It seems like the commissioner’s office has taken issue with that fact. Have you considered not betting on baseball anymore? That’s a good point. You remember reading about Bart Giamatti telling me to reconfigure my life? OK, no one has ever told me—including Manfred, including Selig—what does that mean? I guess my point is, just tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it. I’m in control. Just tell me. If I want to bet on Monday Night Football, and that’s the way I enjoy my life, why is everybody so worried about that? I’m 75 years old, I have to be able to have some form of entertainment. I’m not betting out of my means. It’s not illegal. If you don’t want me to bet on baseball or anything else, just tell me.

If they told you that— I’d do it. Absolutely. But no one has ever explained “reconfigure your life.” I have taken responsibility for it. I have apologized for it. I have shown I’m sorry. But there again, no matter how many times you say you’re sorry, not everybody’s going to hear you. All I can do is imagine what they meant when they said reconfigure my life. And evidently, no one’s willing to tell me what that means.

So it was all a big misunderstanding. A man who was in his late 40s was banned for gambling on baseball and was told to straighten up yet he had no idea, for 26 years, that maybe it’d be a good idea for him to not gamble on baseball anymore in order to get back into the good graces of the folks who banned him. Damn, why did they pose such impossible riddles to him! If only he had a clue as to what sort of behavior would have improved his chances!

But really, guys: Rose is ready to stop betting on baseball. All you have to do is tell him. If he had known before now, well, we’d be having a TOTALLY different conversation, I’m sure.